CT provides best diagnosis for COVID-19
In a study of more than 1,000 patients published in the journal Radiology, chest CT outperformed lab testing in the diagnosis of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The researchers concluded that CT should be used as the primary screening tool for COVID-19.
In the absence of specific therapeutic drugs or vaccines for COVID-19, it is essential to detect the disease at an early stage and immediately isolate an infected patient from the healthy population.
According to the latest guidelines published by the Chinese government, the diagnosis of COVID-19 must be confirmed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or gene sequencing for respiratory or blood specimens, as the key indicator for hospitalization.
However, with limitations of sample collection and transportation, as well as kit performance, the total positive rate of RT-PCR for throat swab samples has been reported to be about 30% to 60% at initial presentation.
In the current public health emergency, the low sensitivity of RT-PCR implies that a large number of COVID-19 patients won't be identified quickly and may not receive appropriate treatment.
In addition, given the highly contagious nature of the virus, they carry a risk of infecting a larger population.
"Early diagnosis of COVID-19 is crucial for disease treatment and control. Compared to RT-PCR, chest CT imaging may be a more reliable, practical and rapid method to diagnose and assess COVID-19, especially in the epidemic area," the authors wrote.
Chest CT, a routine imaging tool for pneumonia diagnosis, is fast and relatively easy to perform. Recent research found that the sensitivity of CT for COVID-19 infection was 98% compared to RT-PCR sensitivity of 71%.